In the workplace, obstacles are common. Whether it’s losing market share to a competitor, losing a team leader, or failing to meet your revenue goals for a given fiscal year, it’s critical to bounce back and keep pushing forward. Every person within an organization or organization itself faces adversity every day but not enough take the necessary steps to bounce back. The American Psychological Association defines resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. Bond and Shapiro (2015) confirm the importance of resilience in business success as 90% of the employees they interviewed found it to be a major factor in career success. Below are some simple steps to create a culture of resilience within your organization or personal life.
- Embrace failure
It is all too common where employees fear making mistakes or venturing out to try new possibilities as they are told to ‘stick to the system’ or ‘try not to reinvent the wheel’. What comes of this is an inevitable stigma to those who do try to do things differently within the organization and fail.
We should start looking at failure as a means of growth and development. Govindarajan (2011) discusses the failures that took place during the Disney MGM Studios theme park opening in 1989 and how those same successes ultimately led to an award winning set up. He explains that success is a function of encouraging new experiments, hoping for failure as the organization will grow, and learning how to combine failed ideas to form successful ones. This ability to be excited to try new ideas and bounce back from failure not only creates resilience, but also success.
- Avoid micromanagement
Micromanagement is another common situation in many organizations. This process stifles growth and creativity within employees while also putting them in a situation of cognitive dissonance leading to unnecessary stress. Austin and Larkey (1992) discuss this in their research with the government’s defense procurement team regarding use of MCCR software. They found that micromanagement of the government reduced efficiency by projects taking longer than necessary and paying for the labor to work more than they had to. He interviewed contractors who recounted painful decisions between doing it the government way or doing it the right way. Situations like these are more likely to lead to burnout than success and create fear in employees to comply with management. Instead, giving employees some freedom to create their own approach to a project conveys trust and instills confidence in them which are critical elements for resilience.
- Invest in employees
Reducing expenses at the cost of employees can be expensive. Zeynop (2014) Ton, associate professor at the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T. discusses this in her book, The Good Jobs Strategy. Ton researches retail stores who have high margins of cost of goods sold but struggle with their bottom line. She found out that this was due to employees receiving low pay and poor training which also led to a reduction in morale and high turnover. She then studied stores that were profitable and found the primary difference was due to giving their employees a fair income, good quality training, and providing them with growth opportunities. This made them less likely to quit and gave them the confidence to solve problems by themselves, make decisions quickly and creating a more profitable organization.
In summary, building resilience in your organization requires a major focus on how you treat your employees. Give them the freedom to fail, projects to complete rather than step by step directions on how to do them, and the compensation, training, and benefits they need to feel secure and motivated in the workplace. In return, their effectiveness will increase which will also increase your profitability.
Keep in mind that resilience can always be improved. As Grant and Sandberg (2017) suggest, resilience is not fixed, but like a muscle that can be built up.
Thanks for reading,
Shamit Patel, Sirma Enterprise Systems
This article was inspired by Adam Grant (Industrial/Organizational Psychologist &Wharton Professor) and Sheryl Sandberg’s (Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer) recent book, Option B.
Austin, R & Patrick L. (1992) The Unintended Consequences of Micromanagement: The Case of Procuring Mission Critical Computer Resources. Policy Sciences 25.1 (1992): 3-28.
Govindarajan, V. (2011, March). The Positive Power of Failure. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2011/03/the-positive-power-of-failure
Nocera, J. (2015, July) The Good Jobs Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/07/opinion/joe-nocera-the-good-jobs-strategy.html?_r=0
Ovans, A. (2015, January). What Resilience Means, and Why It Matters. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/01/what-resilience-means-and-why-it-matters
Sandberg, S. & Grant, A. (2017) Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. London: WH Allen.
Shapiro, G. & Bond, S. Tough at the Top. Retrieved from http://shapiroconsulting.co.uk/projects/tough-at-the-top/